In 1979, director Ridley Scott informed us with his film, “Alien,” that, in space, no one can hear you scream. The opposite is true on Mars. And when astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is presumed dead and left behind on the Red Planet, hearing himself scream is the least of his worries.
Beautifully photographed, and featuring an amazing performance by Matt Damon, “The Martian” takes a serious, yet occasionally humorous, look at a situation that is both serious and humorous. When a bad storm hits the surface of Mars, the exploratory team, led by Melissa Lewis (Chastain), decide to evacuate the planet. Watney is struck by flying debris and all electronic monitors show him as dead. But he’s not. He comes to hours later and learns that he has been left behind on a planet whose next visitors aren’t scheduled for another four years. With only six-months of supplies to support him, Watney must devise a way to grow food on a lifeless planet, find water and contact NASA. You cheer with him when he triumphs and feel his pain when he fails. Like Tom Hanks in “CastAway” or Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” a lot of the film is a one man show and the self-depreciating Damon quickly gets the audience on his side and keeps them.
Damon is joined by a great supporting cast that help move the story along. Besides Chastain, Michael Pena’ delivers as another member of the crew that left Watney behind. Pena’ and Damon have some great chemistry when together on-screen and that chemistry carries over to the scenes they share with only a computer keyboard to express themselves. On the NASA side, Jeff Daniels is sly as the head of the agency, while Chewitel Ejiofor stands out as the project director. Other performances of note are delivered by Donald Glover, Sean Bean and, in a rare dramatic performance, Kristen Wiig.
The direction by Scott is crisp and the film moves along at a good pace. The screenplay, by Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” “World War Z”) is peppered with some great scenes, including one that will have all “Lord of the Rings” fans smiling to themselves. If you’re thinking of going away for the weekend, my suggestion is that you take a trip to Mars.
DVD : There’s two different versions of the film here – one the standard theatrical version and the other an extended version. Essentially, you get to see more of what Watney got up to while stranded on Mars – particularly during the tough times. There are audio commentaries on both – insightful and entertaining.
Extras-wise, you’ll find a very lengthy six-part documentary on the making of the movie, an art gallery, deleted scenes and more. If you don’t own a copy of the film yet, make sure you grab this release and not the previously released near bare-bones edition.
”The Martian – Extended Edition” is landing on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 24th.